There are two different notions that come to my mind when I think of ways to be successful: one is to struggle, sacrifice, and give everything you’ve got to “make it.” The other is to live simply, “let things come to you,” and strive to rank your inner peace as the marker of success (rather than wealth, job title, or number of social media followers). I’ve gone in waves of an ambitious performer seeking recognition, to a yoga teacher simply wanting to live in the mountains. Up until this year began, I had adopted the belief that living comfortably was more important than living stressed out and chasing a goal filled with struggle. From this TEDx Talk – “Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life” – and in my own recent move to New York City, I’m finding that the sweet spot of inner growth and success lies right in the middle of two opposite ends: living stagnant, and living in chaos.
Perhaps we’ve always known this, like how balance on one leg comes from opposite forces meeting each other head-on, creating pressure, and stabilizing the body in between. The foot presses into the floor, sending energy down to the ground, and the floor presses into the foot with equal force (otherwise we might just fall through the floorboards). If you get a group of yogis together to come into a one legged balance and have them hold out their hands and press into each others palms, the room will have a greater chance of balancing for a longer period of time. If one person presses too much into their partner, and that partner does not push back with equal force, their balance will both be thrown off, and they will likely stumble out of the posture.
What does this mean off the mat? It means that it is imperative to surround ourselves with people who will push us, perhaps even provoke us to act. We need to choose partners, be it romantically, platonically, or professionally, that challenge us. As individuals, we must keep ourselves accountable and challenge our own limits to find out what we are truly capable of achieving. Our inner growth cannot be compromised for what is “easy.”
Comfort is easy to settle for: a familiar face to wake up next to, a job that offers numerous benefits and security, a city or town that feels relatively safe, a story we tell about ourselves that hasn’t changed too much, and that food we crave to eat, even when it might be causing that illness we’re starting to notice.
Even in writing that description of possible comfort items, I’d be lying to say that they don’t sound nice. If you have that job, that person, that security, etc., congratulations! I’m sure it has had its ups, downs, beautiful moments, and difficult moments. However, it is true that nothing lasts forever. Security can be temporarily found in people, jobs, places, and so on, but ultimately, the one thing we always have in this life is our own being (until that too passes). Like in the above TEDx Talk, one lay off can change that stable job. A car accident can lead to the loss of a significant other, a mass shooting can change a small community that felt “safe,” and as awful as those things truly are, they can be our greatest teachers in leading us to make powerful choices and value our time to the best of our ability.
Within the first few days of walking around New York as a resident and not a visitor, I felt a whole range of emotions. I felt on guard to people and wondered how I’d fall in love while walking so damn fast all the time. I cried by a tree in Central Park and felt totally alone, but also at home with the birds, the sunshine, and my breath while letting myself slow down. I laughed in a bar and made new friends who were awesome. I went to a ballet class and felt so alive, invigorated, and happy as can be for the whole day. The night brought me down a bit later, when an experience with a man shocked me back to a past lover. I interviewed for a temp agency after the Port Authority explosion delayed my arrival, after not having any of my materials with me, and feeling so unprepared, questioning if an office life was something I was okay with. I had the urge to teach yoga like none other and feel reconnected to my purpose. While standing in a line at Whole Foods, feeling like cattle in a line for whatever checkout counter would call us, I thought, “Is any of this real? Does any of this actually matter?” This run on of sentences and events represents what my mind began to feel and look like. Chaos and a dash of calm contentment.
The next day, I went to 5Rhythms after getting lost and being delayed (again). Before the second wave of movement, the teacher gave a poem and reading about Chanukah. The direction was to stand in complete darkness with our being before lighting the first candle. I found this symbolic in being with the darkness in myself. Lately, I had been avoiding total, literal darkness. I wanted some kind of light in my bedroom, or the light of the moon before bed. Even with my former lover I trusted back home, the minute he turned the lights out for bed on our last night, I found that I could not be in darkness with myself. A fear crept over me, and I felt abandoned in a suddenly unrecognizable room. If I could not see him, and he could not see me, it didn’t matter if there was a being beside me, I felt a new fear of being alone in the dark. Perhaps timing had something to do with this reaction too. I was leaving what felt like lots of people behind, closing a beautiful chapter of my life, and experiencing a moment of darkness that felt like the beginning of traveling solo.
When the 5Rhythms circle was open to share reflections after the reading, I expressed to the group how I was feeling heavily weighted in energy and not wanting to dance around per usual. I basically said, “I love to dance, I really do, but all I want to do is sit on the floor and not move. That’s weird to me.” The teacher’s response:
“Give into the heaviness. Make it huge. That feeling often comes when something is about to shift.”
Those words began to crack my perspective bit by bit. I started to realize that this feeling of being high and crashing low, having fear and seeking love, wanting to run away from everything that feels hard about New York and this path, yet deeply knowing that here was where I was supposed to be, was the feeling of giving birth to something.
I’ve never been pregnant or given literal, physical birth, but these days felt like contractions or being in labor with my dreams — I would attempt to expand and prepare myself to leap forward, and something would pull me back and close me off. I wanted to keep my bright free spirit, but began to notice how quickly that could be taken advantage of. I had to be my own protector and be strong. Yet, I longed for my parents or a warrior man to be beside me instead, so I could keep dancing around with the pigeons, believing the world is a playground of magic (I still believe that, by the way…).
I realized that this “child” made of a dream of being an artist in New York, has been growing in me for about ten years. It was that “child” who said, “We can’t stay in Michigan anymore. I need to go home. I need to be in the place I’ve been telling you to go for years. Let me be free. Let me go there. It’s time.” Whether or not this “child” will stay with me or eventually evolve into something else is to be determined, but the message was clear: I had to follow this dream into the depths of discomfort because here is where it needs to be initiated and birthed into the city. The same city that planted its seed long ago. To do anything else would be to risk a miscarriage and lose what has been precious to me most of my life.
I began watching Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix a few days ago. On episode three, the Punisher, Frank, is holding a character named Micros hostage, and he speaks about the value of routine while torturing him: “Pain. You can get used to pain. You can adjust to it. You can adjust to pretty much anything. Just as long as there’s routine, right? Routine, human mind, craves it. Needs it. But if you take that away, that’s when you start to lose your shit.”
Routine is important. Having some level of predictability in every day life can create a grounding stability. It’s like recovering from a loss and not knowing what to do, so we might clean the house, or make breakfast, or try to do one small thing at a time that feels like normalcy. We may relish in paying the credit card bill or going to work because it feels like we are moving forward. What is familiar allows us space to process and root in. We may find new patterns of behavior that help to ease our pain, like a daily walk we’re now taking, or that evening drink that takes the edge off. We remember the sun always rises after the previous day became a dark night.
I believe it’s true, we can adjust to pretty much anything. We are resilient beings. We were meant to evolve, and from Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road book, she and others would support the idea that we were always meant to be nomadic creatures; exploring, staying curious, and expanding our view of the world.
My message of this post is like a tarot card reading I received in August, when I was told that this year would be filled with tough decisions: “Choose the choice that is harder to make.”
I firmly believe that choosing the more uncomfortable path will lead you to the greatest rewards. The more impossible it seems, the more likely you are to grow into your best self. By doing the very thing you fear, you will expand beyond what you thought you could be. This doesn’t mean staying in a relationship that is abusive, or forcing yourself to pursue a path or job that no longer fits you. As we grow and change, our values may shift, and life may ask us for an honest reassessment before moving forward. If we take the time to do so, we are more likely to walk forth with conscious awareness as to why, how, and with what intention we seek to manifest as we take our next steps.
May be you be awake and aware to the You that is ever present.
May you evolve, constantly.
May you birth something incredible out of your very breath, being, and existence.
With love and with play,